The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee expressed their distaste for the American Athletic Conference, once again, with the 2015 edition of the bracket.
The same thing happened two seasons ago, when a Louisville team which was ranked in the top five was given a four seed. A UConn team that was ranked No. 18 before beating two more ranked teams (including Memphis at Memphis) in the AAC Tournament earned a 7-seed. The SMU team which beat the eventual national champions twice, comfortably, was omitted from the field.
This past season, decent teams from Temple and Tulsa were on the outside looking in. The conference regular season and tournament champion SMU drew a 6-seed, leading the way for our two-bid league. Woof.
The main culprit here is that the conference schedule contains too many games against sub-200 NCAA teams. While there actually are some good teams in the conference, the bottom-feeders really pull down the RPI of any post-season hopeful and with it the overall perception of the league.
While the numbers show that seeding doesn't have a huge impact on winning it all, it does help when you're trying to make Sweet 16 appearances and shift the opinions of media, fans, prospects, etc. with figures such as tournament wins or tournament bids.
Which is why I'm proposing that the AAC shift to an unbalanced schedule determined by the previous year's performance, so the better teams can play each other more often.
The conference slate consists of 18 games. With AAC Men's Basketball membership at 11, the current set up is that a team plays 8 opponents twice, and two other teams just once. I do not believe there is currently any rhyme or reason to which two teams you only play once. Last year UConn's one-time opponents were Houston and UCF.
So how do we make this work? Playing every team at least once gives us ten games. Let's do that. Then we'd have to get a little weird.
I suggest grouping the top three teams together, let's call them Group A, and then let's call the next three Group B. The remaining five teams will compose Group C.
With the remaining 8 games, teams from Group A would play each other two more times, adding four games to the schedule. They will play each member of Group B once more and then one Group C team.
The members of Group B would play everyone in Group A one more time, play every other member of their group two more times, and then one more game with a member of Group C.
Group C plays six games against group members, split up in some random way. They will have one more game with a Group B team and one more with a Group A team.
I realize this looks silly. Three regular season games with the same opponent? You realize they might meet for a fourth time in the AACT, right? Do you promise that you quit huffing glue? While I can neither confirm nor deny my relationship with glue I can confirm that I'd rather play Memphis and Cincinnati three times than preserve our two games with ECU or Tulane.
Moving to this scheduling has a couple of very clear benefits:
- Better games for better teams - There were simply too many games on the conference schedule that fans didn't care about. Games between the better teams still had great attendance and fanfare, they were just few and far between.
- Building conference rivalries - It's no secret that we have very little history with Memphis or SMU, or even with our old Big East friends Cincinnati and USF. Moving to this system allows us to accelerate these rivalries and help create some of the mutual hatred which we so greatly enjoyed in the Big East.
- #BRAND - This creates a stronger inventory of games for our television partners, and gives the conference more opportunities to make prime time appearances on ESPN and ESPN2.
- Travel - This should make travel for the schools easier and cheaper, which is good because UConn's travel schedule last year was absurd. Maybe the two additional group games can be held over a weekend, similar to a weekend series in college baseball or hockey. It might encourage more fans to make the trip for away games.